Jesus's Words

Chapter 4: Paul Disbelieved Continued. First of His Four Visits to Jerusalem After His Conversion—Say Jerusalem Visit I. or Reconciliation Visit.—Barnabas Introducing Him From Antioch to the Apostles

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Section 5: Cause Of the Discordance Between the Two Accounts

Between these two accounts, such being the discordance—where shall we find the cause of it? Answer: in the different views, in which, at the time of writing, the two accounts were penned: in the different objects, to the accomplishment of which, at the time of penning their respective accounts, the endeavours of the two writers were directed.

The author of the Acts—what, then, was his object? To obtain for his patron—his chief hero—alive or dead—a recognition, as universal as possible, in his assumed character of an Apostle. The more complete the recognition, bestowed upon him by those most competent of all judges,—the more extensive the recognition he might look for, at the hands of all other their fellow-believers.

Sufficient was this—sufficient for the general purposes of the party—in the eyes of a person other than Paul, even though that other person was a protegé, a retainer, a satellite.

Sufficient this was not, however, to the arrogance of the head of the party—Paul himself: at least, at the time of his writing this his letter to his Galatian converts.

Think you, says he, that any relation, I have ever borne to any of those who were Apostles before me, had, on my part, anything in it of dependence? Think you, that I ever stood in need of anything at their hands? Think you, that I had ever any more need of them, than they of me? Not I, indeed. The Gospel, which I have always preached—neither from them did I receive it, nor from them, in preaching it, did I ever seek or receive any assistance.(See Galatians 1:11-12.) Think you, that I stood in any need, or ever supposed myself to stand in any need, of any acceptance or acknowledgement at their hands? Not I, indeed. When my revelation had been received by me, did I present myself to them, for any such purpose as that of remuneration and acceptance? Not I, indeed. I went not to them: I went not so much as to Jerusalem, where they then were: I conferred not with flesh and blood:—off I went to Arabia; and when my business in Arabia was at an end, even then, did I repair to Jerusalem? Not I, indeed. I returned again to Damascus. True it is, to Jerusalem I did go at last.—But when?—Not till three years afterwards. Well—and, when I was at Jerusalem, how many, and which of them, think you that I saw? Think you, that I put myself to any such trouble, as that of seeing them all together? the whole herd of them? No. Peter was naturally a chief among them: with him I had accordingly some business to settle:—him, accordingly, I saw, as also James, whom, as being a brother, or other near kinsman, of Jesus, I had a curiosity to see.

Paul himself wrote at one time; this his disciple at another: each of them pursued the purpose of the time. Not on this occasion, at any rate,—perhaps not on any other, was there anything, that either wrote, concerted between them.25 Of this want of concert, what has just been seen is one of the consequences.

Reserved as we have seen him, in regard to time and other circumstances,—one circumstance more there is, for which our curiosity is to no small amount, debtor, to the author of the Acts. This is—information, of the means—of the channel, through which Paul obtained the introduction, which, without mention made of the object, we have seen him acknowledging that, so far as concerned Peter, he was desirous of: and that to such a degree, as to undertake a journey from Damascus to Jerusalem, some 120 or 130 miles, for the purpose.

Repugnancy, so natural, and naturally so vehement—even at the end of three years, or the still greater number of years—by what means could he remove it, or so much as flatter himself with a prospect of being able to remove it? To this question, it is to the author of the Acts that we are indebted for an answer: and that answer a satisfactory one:—it was by the assistance of Barnabas, that the object, so far as it was accomplished, was accomplished.

To the religion of Jesus, after as well as before this,—to the Apostles in particular before this,—Barnabas was a supporter of no small importance.

At the time when the financial arrangements were for the second time settled;26—when, from the substance of the opulent among the faithful, enough was collected for the support of all the indigent;—among those, by whom, on this second occasion, lands and houses, were for this purpose sold, particular persons are, on this second occasion, for the first time mentioned. The first place is occupied by this Barnabas: and not till after him come Ananias and Sapphira—the unfortunate pair, of whose fate mention will have to be made in another place.

Joses was, it seems, the original name—the proper name of this beneficent protector: Barnabas, the Son of consolation,(See Acts 4:36.) was no more than a title of honour,—a token of gratitude. A title of honour? and by whom conferred? Even by the Apostles. By Barnabas, therefore, whatsoever thereafter comes to be reported as done,—it is by the Son of consolation that we are to understand it to have been, and to be, done.

As to the arguments, by which this son of consolation succeeded,—in prevailing, upon two, and, if we are to believe Paul, no more than two, of these so lately persecuted or threatened servants of Jesus,—to be, for a few days, upon speaking terms, with him, who so lately had been their deadly, as well as open enemy,—it is from imagination, with judgment for her guide, that they must, if at all, be deduced from the surrounding circumstances of the case.

As to these arguments, however,—whatever were the rest of them, of two of them a hint is given by the author of the Acts: these are,—the story of the conversion,—and the boldness of the preaching, which at Damascus was among the first-fruits of it. Those which, under the guidance of judgment, imagination would not find much difficulty in adding, are,—the evil—that might result from his enmity, in case the advances then made by him were rejected,—and the useful service, which, by the blessing of God, might be hoped for at his hands, if admitted in the character of an ally and cooperator: at any rate, so long as the whole field of his exertions, and in particular the geographical part of it, continued different from theirs.

With Peter, on whatever account, it was Paul's own desire to hold a conference:—so we have seen him declaring to the Galatians. To this Peter, whom he was desirous of seeing, and whom at length he succeeded in seeing,—to this Peter did he then himself tell the story of his vision, of his conversion, and the mode of it? If at any time he did,—at any rate, if the author of the Acts is to be believed,—it was not till Barnabas, the son of consolation, had told it for him. Had it been by himself that his story had been to be told in the first instance,—he would thereby have stood exposed to cross-examination: and, among those things, which Barnabas might in his situation say for him,—were many things, which, if at all, he could not, with anything like an equal prospect of good effect, have said for himself. To any asseveration of his own,—in any promises of future amity, it was not in the nature of the case, that from his own mouth they should give credence. But, when by Barnabas, of whose zeal in their cause they had received such substantial proofs—when from this son of consolation they received assurance, that Paul had actually engaged himself in that line of service, which he professed himself desirous to embrace;—that he had engaged so far, that no prospect of safe retreat could reasonably be in his view;—then it was, that, without imprudence, they might, venture to hold at least a conference with him, and hear and see what he had to say for himself.

As to the account, given on this occasion by Barnabas, of the famous vision,—had it been but preserved, it would probably have been no less curious than those which we have been already seeing. Though we cannot be precisely assured in what way,—we may be pretty well assured, that, in some way or other, additions would have been to be seen made in it, to the list of variations.

But, the great advantage,—producible, and probably produced, by the opening of the matter, as performed by Barnabas,—was this: in company with those arguments, by which the sincerity of Paul was to be demonstrated,—would naturally come those, by which intimation would be given, of the advantage there might be, in forbearing to apply too strict a scrutiny, to this important statement. The interests, which, in the character of motives, pleaded for the acceptance, of the advance made towards reconciliation and mutually advantageous cooperation,—would, in this manner, prepare the way, for receiving, without any troublesome counter-interrogation, the important narrative: or, perhaps, for considering the matter, as already sufficiently explained, by the son of consolation,—in such sort that, to the new Apostle, the trouble of repeating a narrative, which he must already have so frequently found himself under the necessity of repeating, might be spared.

The greater was the importance, of the service thus rendered to Paul by the son of consolation,—the more studiously, in giving the account, as above, of the intercourse with the Apostles at Jerusalem,—the more studiously, would he avoid all mention of it.27


25 In the current chronology, this Epistle to the Galatians is placed in the year 58; on the part of the author of the Acts, the first mention of his being in the company of Paul is placed in the year next following, to wit, 59. Note, that at the end of the Epistle to the Galatians, it is stated to be written from Rome: yet, according to the current chronology, his arrival at Rome, in custody, from Jerusalem,—at which time unquestionably he had never as yet visited Rome,—did not take place till the year 62.

26 First time, Acts 2:45. Second time, Acts 4:34.

27 I conferred not with flesh and blood.Galatians 1:16 "Of those who seemed to be somewhat, whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me." Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter.Galatians 1:18 With language in this strain, it would have harmonized but indifferently, to have added, "nor should I have seen him then, had it not been for Barnabas."

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